According to reports of an investor conference which appeared in the Taipei Times, e-paper specialist producer E Ink Holdings Inc. has announced lower sales and financial losses over the current and ensuing quarters, off the back of falling demand for its screens, found inside the Kindle and other e-readers. E Ink CFO Eddie Chen forecast revenue down some 5-10 percent from the $192.4 million recorded in the last quarter of 2013.
Admittedly, this could be a freak seasonal result. The last quarter of 2013 brought profits nearly double the usual quarterly level, according to the Taipei Times report, although much of this did come from royalties income rather than the company’s own production. Last year also brought the firm a full-year profit after a loss in 2012.
All the same, local anaylsts ascribed the lowered expectations to falling demand for dedicated e-readers in favor of tablet devices, including Kindle Fires. They also endorsed Chen’s announced plan to broaden its product portfolio away from pure e-readers to embrace screens for mobile phones and other implementations.
Where this leaves Kindle demand is also open to speculation. Some reports have pointed to signs that the e-reader market has already peaked in the U.S. However, there still may be many other new form factors and new markets waiting, and the overall growth of the ebook market – if you believe the best analyses of the numbers rather than traditional publishers’ self-serving comments – shows few signs of slackening.
I certainly hope epaper can remain around as a major consumer product. The far longer battery life is great and it’ll always be more readable in bright sunlight than an LCD.
Sadly, this reminds me of when audiobooks on CD began to replace those on cassette. Yes, there was no tape to jam with a CD. But a cassette automatically kept your place when you stopped it. Designed for music, a CD player lost your place and often lost the track (typically a chapter) you were listening to. That’s why I stuck to cassettes until I got an iPod.
Ereaders might serve as a good replacement for school textbooks. They’re be cheaper, more rugged and have none of the management issues of an iPad. But in my experience, school districts tend to opt for pricey stuff sold by smooth talking salesmen.
Someone I once knew who tried to serve as a technical advisor for his local public schools once told me that, typically when a technology had clearly failed (i.e. those huge laser players), the companies that make them sent salesmen out to public schools with the admonition, “They’ll buy anything.” Epaper is too inexpensive and practical for that to work.
Or people like me see no reason to update ’til the battery goes . I’ve been using a Sony T1 since they came out and it does what I want it to do. When that goes I’ll get another e-reader.
Perhaps the era of the screen mime of the paper book is ending and the advent of the native e-books is dawning. Reading habits have already adapted to scrolling and touch navigation.
Paul, good post, i saw that in the Taipei Times print edition the day it appeared as I am in Taiwan. Question, and maybe you can pursue: will E INK ever produce its won ebook ereader with the E Ink logo on the tablet? There have been rumours of such, but wonder if you have heard this too?
btw, side note: E INK company in Taiwan began life as a toilet paper firm in the 1920s during the Japan occupation of Taiwan (1895-1945).